Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Great lunch; Death and Putting on a Show

I had a lot of cleaning and tidying to do yesterday morning in advance of my visit tonight with Kris, Steve and Nancy, and I breezed through it all, listening to magnificent choral music and thrilled at the prosect of having mentors to help me make my monologue more theatrical. Once my housework was done, I made some pastry and blind baked it in advance of making a lemon tart for tonight’s dinner, and then Her Highness and I went for a good long walk.

Yesterday was a damp day with a heavy overcast and drizzly showers off and on, but when Her Highness and I went walking together, we missed the rain. It was so warm I wore no coat, and it was really a treat to be outside and feel like it wasn’t Winter. When I got home, I got to work reinforcing my conviction that I am shite with pastry. The tart I made calls for a very buttery pastry—in fact, it’s practically shortbread—but it’s very hard to work with. I worsened the problem by using ½ flour and ½ almond flour that is quite rich with oil.

Our lovely long walk allowed me to leave Sheba in the house while I went to Paula’s for lunch. I hadn’t seen Paula and her brothers for quite a while. Paula has four siblings living on the island; there are five (I think) more living elsewhere. (When I hear about huge families like Paula’s, I think of her mother spending almost seven years of her life pregnant.) Two of her brothers were at lunch: R. and J.

Lunch was wonderful. The food (homemade pizza) was delicious, and we had a very interesting conversation once we’d caught up with all we’d been doing. We got started talking about MAID, and that led to us talking about our relationship with our own death. J is almost eager for it; R tries hard not to have him think that way. He clearly loves his brother. In fact, they told me they were each other’s entire social life.

As part of that discussion, J, a lovely happy man, betrayed a ‘belief’ in heaven. (I hate even seeing the verb, ‘believe,’ in the same sentence as the word, ‘heaven.’) He’s very happy with his understanding and vision of heaven. I love talking with people with different views than mine, and sharing perspectives, so we talked about heaven and other aspects of ‘life after death’ together.

I believe in absolutely nothing post-mortem. At death, it’s all over. There’s only decay after that. What others’ think and believe is interesting to me; by ‘others” I mean intelligent others who enjoy talking about differences in a friendly atmosphere. I was surprised that a bright academic (J) could ‘believe’ in heaven; whenever I run into people of faith, I always feel that they are happier than me.

Lunch was really stimulating. I came home sparkling from the joy of it. And once home, I had a minor epiphany. “Being” feels different than I can remember being most of my life. But I haven’t been able to figure out how to put words to this difference. But as I drove home my consciousness shifted from the subject of the conversation to its effect on me. I felt more alive than I’ve been feeling for quite a while. And happy. I’d been stimulated, and safely—usually, stimulation leads to worsening speech and a seizure. 

And then suddenly I thought: Wait a minute, that’s the difference! The difference is consciousness of different ways of being. All my life I was happy. I never had fights or arguments with people. Things got choppy between Steve and I at times, but I am a flyer. I flee conflict; I don’t engage and never have. I learned to be easy to get along with and to please.

I had sad times. It was hard being a gay kid when I went through puberty and high school. But I could quickly bounce back to being Mr. Constantly Happy—not weird happy, just a constant mild happiness with infrequent dips. 

Now I live a life of what has been, for me, emotional chaos. Being a nervous wreck sensitizes me to my environment. Over-stimulation is my Kryptonite. On two occasions, I’ve brought on a seizure by being so excited to be reunited with Sheba. So now I can feel very differently many times during a day. I am constantly trying to put words to how I am feeling to help me document my thoughts and feeling to understand things (like why it’s so emotionally challenging to work for the clinic) and in a diary I keep for Dr. Shohja. 

I’ve gone from a highly committed, almost manically committed, self-ignorant person. I used Marijuana constantly to be ‘distant’ from myself. I was not interested in self-analysis. Now it’s required for the processing of my understanding a force that shapes my everyday life.

I had ‘professional crushes.’ As a stage-manager, I worked for a theatre company. I’d work with members of the company for two weeks of rehearsals, then they’d, for the most part, disappear, sometimes for months, as I went on to work with a company of actors, dancers, musicians and technicians, putting on the shows. 

Being a backstage person, I didn’t get much love from the audience. I’d often never see them. And I wouldn’t get rich in the profession. What held me in the profession was the feeling of being in a family. And the odd member of our family would give me goosebumps. It started in my very first professional show: Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. My first professional crush was on Ann Mortifee, who was the star of the show.

I had many crushes; another one, much, much later in my career, was Warren Kimmel. Both Ann and Warren were magnificent singers. I’d feel rapture when they sang. So, when I self-produced a musical I’d written as a fundraiser for a favourite charity, I hired Warren to play the male part. And that led to him proposing that we partner to make a movie script of the play script. Which we did.

I never thought about what might happen to the script because I could not imagine us selling the first screenplay either of us had ever written. I was thrilled to be working together with Warren. That was enough of a thrill for me. So, when he did sell it to a producer, I was stunned. It never got produced, so I never experienced being part of a professional creative team doing the re-write of the script.

I feel the interview and mentoring offered by Island Playwrights is a bigger, better win that doing the show. Writing has always been as a client service provider. I’ve always worked alone but I desperately wanted the experience I’m about to go through with Island Playwrights. And ultimately, it may lead to a show (and, perhaps, the beginning of an annual theatrical monologue festival). So, my fellow monologuists, the festival stage director and festival coordinator will be trying to cobble together a show, finding rhythm and narrative in the various stories. 

I started producing plays in my neighbourhood when I was four. I conscripted neighbourhood kids to be in my productions, our parents were the audience. We did plays, our garage serving as the proscenium, and parades. And when I was 26, I built a public theatre (designed it, raised the funds to build it, project managed the construction and ran it) for two municipalities that is still in regular use. Creating theatre is my one natural passion.

This script workshopping process that I’m about to go through, coming late in my life (with three chronic diseases in management), brings me ultimate joy! I can hardly wait for the process to begin. 

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